Flooding in Tennessee claimed at least 16 lives over the weekend, in the wake of hurricane-like rains.
According to local weather services, the town of McEwen, Tennessee, saw 17 inches of rain on Saturday alone, setting a new record for a single day.
“We were getting rainfall rates of 3 inches per hour for three hours straight,” said Krissy Hurley, warning coordination meteorologist for National Weather Service Nashville. “It’s an unheard of, astronomical type of statistic to see after the fact.”
The rain, thrown out by Hurricane Henri to the South, vastly exceeded the six inches that was predicted, and may be a new state record for rainfall within a 24-hour period.
“Once things started going and developing early Saturday morning, we realized it would be a devastating event,” said Hurley.
Nearby Waverly in Humphrey’s County saw the brunt of the damage, including a possible 20 casualties (counts differ between emergency services). Twenty additional people remain missing, down from 45 on Sunday morning. The storm has knocked out cell service to most of the county, inflating the first missing count with those who just couldn’t reach their families.
The flood has damaged homes, schools, infrastructure, and hospitals in Waverly. Homes in particular have been washed off their foundations and destroyed by high waters.
“My house fell off the foundation while were still in it, so we had to break the window in the kitchen and crawl out of it and get up on the roof as fast as we could,” said Casey Hipshire, from McEwen. Her family all made it out unharmed and are currently staying in one of the three shelters set up in the county to handle the hundreds of displaced people.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has called the flooding in Tennessee “a devastating picture of loss and heartache,” and a “tremendous loss of life.” The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Tennessee National Guard are both on the ground doing what they can for rescue and recovery.
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